Easter 2011: Providence and Promise
With the arrival of Easter 2011, we have completed the 40-day “Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty” online teach-in.
“Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty” was a journey of discovery that engaged moral passion, daily headlines and public-policy arguments. It began with a launch event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Ash Wednesday, March 9, when a wide range of YDS alums, religious organizations and anti-poverty organizations gathered to focus on the persistence of poverty in a modern world that has the power to eradicate it.
We are grateful to the many friends and colleagues that collaborated both in the poverty-themed Reflections issue last fall and in this follow-up Lenten initiative, especially to Art Keyes and his team at International Relief and Development, which made possible the Ash Wednesday event and the video taping). We are grateful to all who sampled or joined this daily experiment on Facebook, all who generously offered their ideas and concern.
This Lenten project is over, but the issues, of course, endure. So we pledge resolve to remain mindful and intentional about confronting poverty in these days of peril and possibility.
We carry forward many lessons and impressions from this Lenten experience around poverty issues.
The grueling statistics – 15,000 impoverished children, for instance, die every day from preventable causes – remain ruthless and unyielding. Yet the timing of Lent this year, and a thematic focus on poverty, proved to be providential.
Lent 2011 arrived just as the national debate about severe budget cuts and their impact on poor people was coming to a boil. The surging ideological conflict over the national debt focused attention on federal priorities and the morality of safeguarding programs for vulnerable people.
Religious leaders mobilized in remarkable new ways across political lines. Thousands joined a fast to protest budget cuts that would harm poor people. Advocates made the case that budget priorities and tax policies represent real-life moral choices. An ambitious argument gained currency: the world now has the capability to eradicate severe poverty if we summons the will to challenge the self-serving interests of power.
Theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez’s words had an acute ring: “To not take sides is to side with those in power.”
It was plain to see that the mandate to uphold fairness and compassion is not only a matter of individual action. Congregations and other organizations must play their part. Government has a role too, because so many conditions of poverty are structural, systemic, beyond the reach of any one voice – alterable only by far-reaching policy changes and democratic procedures.
Our Lenten encounters with issues of poverty brought home the truth that poor people are not abstractions, not “the other.” They’re human beings who are never far from the circle of our daily lives. They are fellow citizens and neighbors. They should be regarded as companions and friends. We are in this together.
Our hope now is to: Stay engaged. Support organizations and best practices that have impact against poverty. Weigh in on rough-and-tumble policy debates. In daily ways, modest or monumental, uphold principles of religious teachings for improving the lives of poor people.
Much work and vigilance remain to be done. Recently the World Bank warned that the recent spike in global food prices could send millions of people deeper into poverty.
We will maintain the Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty” website as a resource and update it in the coming months.
The Lenten period of mindful commitment to the issues and ordeals of poverty is finished. Easter offers a new beginning, a renewal of prayers and purpose.
-- John Lindner and Ray Waddle, the editors of “Mobilizing Faith, Fighting Poverty,”